Health NGO Closes While Waiting for Funding

The offices of the Reproduction and Child Health Alliance are closed this month due to a gap in funding as the organization shifts to official NGO status.

“We’re not closed, but we have certainly shut down our activities as much as possible,” RACHA Program Manager Rich­ard Stur­gis said. The staff of 142 are on paid vacation, with a handful working part time to continue essential projects like fieldwork outreaches.

RACHA was previously a project of New York-based NGO En­gen­derhealth, and re­ceived US Agen­cy for Internation­al Develop­ment funding through Engender­health.

RACHA is now in the process of gaining NGO status to receive fund­ing directly from USAID. “The benefit is that we can de­vel­op something of sustainablilty without indirect overhead costs. This is much less expensive,” said Sturgis.

In the meantime, the heap of in­terna­tion­al paperwork required for such a shift was not completed by the Sept 30 close of the US government’s fiscal year, leaving RACHA short on fund­ing until official contract ma­neuvers are completed. “It’s crummy when it happens,” said Sturgis, “but instead of causing layoffs, management decided that a hiatus would be best for everyone.”

Some employees seem confused as to the specific funding mechanisms causing their vacation. “We are closed for one month because of a funding de­lay,” said an employee who asked not to be named. “It’s funding from US donors, USAID.”

A spokesperson for the US Em­bassy was emphatic that the closing is unrelated to USAID. “My understanding is that RACHA is not closed due to funding reasons, but because of a personal decision for staff to take leave. USAID funding will continue, as far as I know.”

RACHA receives USAID funding for family planning, condom and birth-control-pill distribution and post-abortion care for injured women, but not actual abortions. RACHA plans to reopen Dec 1.


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